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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

State budget, Blackboard Ultra opens semester for Faculty Senate

Monique Bever
John Jones, Media Resources Center director, gives presentation about the transition to Blackboard Ultra at the Faculty Senate meeting on Jan. 22.

In an update to Faculty Senate, Zach Gearhart said that Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposed budget sees state employee pay rise by 5%.

Like last year, Wichita State has to find room in its own budget to provide this pay increase.

Faculty Senate discussed these legislative updates, along with the mandatory shift to Blackboard Ultra and conversations on campus climate, at the first meeting in nearly two months on Jan. 22.

Gearhart, President Richard Muma’s chief of staff, reported to the Faculty Senate about what funding the Kansas Legislature is looking to provide for both universities under the Kansas Board of Regents and Wichita State specifically. These numbers should be solidified by May, according to Gearhart.

KBOR Funding

This funding is available, either by application or nature, to colleges and universities that KBOR oversees.

Trinity Ramm

Gearhart said that Wichita State would get the “lion’s share” of the need-based aid allocation because it is based on Pell-eligible students. According to Scholarships360, 35% of students at Wichita State receive Pell Grants, compared to 19% at Kansas State and 20% at the University of Kansas.

For both of the one-time costs, Gearhart said the university “would like to see (the funding) continue.”

“The governor’s office indicated that if the data continues to look good for this and that the return continues to be positive, they will likely include (student success and retention) in the budget for future years,” Gearhart said.

The university has recently used the Facility Demolition Fund in order to cover the costs of demolishing Brennan Halls I-III, which, most recently, housed faculty and staff who were displaced during various campus renovations.

“(The Facility Demolition Fund) allows us to take older facilities offline,” Gearhart said. “That reduces our deferred maintenance number, freeing up resources for other areas.”

There were two WSU-specific line items in the budget. Last year’s budget left roughly $41 million from the Biomedical Campus budget, which the legislature looks to add to this year’s budget. 

The other item is WSU Student Affordability, which funds applied learning opportunities and is currently proposed at $5 million.

Gearhart said WSU administration is still working out how this money will be used but that the current plan is to focus funding on applied learning for Pell-eligible students “in disciplines that typically struggle to find those paid applied learning opportunities.”

Transition to Blackboard Ultra

John Jones, the executive director of the Media Resources Center (MRC), explained the reasoning and logistics behind the university’s mandatory switch to Blackboard Ultra, starting in the summer of 2024. 

The university first introduced Ultra as an option to faculty and staff in 2021, with the original transition to Ultra planned for Fall 2022. 

Jones said the switch needs to happen sooner rather than later because Blackboard Classic will not be around “forever” and the MRC lacks the resources to support both systems.

Faculty and staff will receive training on how to use Blackboard Ultra, and the Academic Resources Conferences in May, June and August will provide faculty and staff with additional materials on Ultra.

For faculty and staff who want to work more with Blackboard Ultra before the summer and fall semesters, an Ultra template can be requested here.

Campus climate

Teri Hall, vice president for student affairs, talked about campus climate and invited the Faculty Senate to a Campus Climate Launch on Feb. 8 in the Beggs Ballroom.

Hall said that administration has met with faculty, staff, and a few students in order to “talk about our campus community and what (they) can do to improve campus climate together.”

The launch is an opportunity for round table discussion where people will “be able to talk about what’s good about our environment (and) what are the things we can work on together,” according to Hall.

Hall said that a “lack of training opportunities” was one of the key takeaways from the Campus Climate survey.

More broadly, the four areas that Hall and her team are looking at are: history, tradition and cultures; policies and procedures; experiences; and belonging and demographics.

Updates from KBOR

Two KBOR meetings took place over the winter break, and Faculty Senate President Jolynn Dowling said that a BBA in Hospitality and a name change from Sports Management to Sports and Leadership Studies were approved by the Regents.

Faculty Senate will reconvene for a joint meeting with WSU Tech on Jan. 29 in Woolsey Hall 110A at 3:30 p.m.

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About the Contributors
Trinity Ramm, Managing Editor
Trinity Ramm is the managing editor and former sports editor for The Sunflower. This is her second year on staff. Ramm is a senior English Lit major and a sociology minor with a certificate in film studies. In her limited spare time, she can be found at the movie theater, browsing some obscure film database or crocheting. Ramm uses she/her pronouns.
Monique Bever, Reporter
Monique Bever is a first-year reporter and photographer. She is a freshman majoring in philosophy. Monique has lived in Wichita for most of her life. She loves film, fashion, and her cat.

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